A Theology of Curse

As I understand it, to say “F$#@ You” in the way I did, is fundamentally a curse — not profanity (it does not profane a sacred thing), name calling, or simply cussing. See below one little example of a curse in the Psalms, especially verse nine. Notice that this is within the genre of an imprecatory prayer. There are plenty of other examples in the Bible of similarly expressed calls of condemnation and action. So with this in mind, I still very much stand behind what I said. Now perhaps the post on torture can have its day as it was originally intended, and those who are squeamish about the theological basis for curse can comment here.

From Psalm 137 (New King James Version):

7 Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, “Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation!”

8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
9 Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

(The emphasis is mine.)


10 thoughts on “A Theology of Curse

  1. The Psalms citation is an excellent example of curse. What needs to be considered is that age-old question of Psalms and normative practice. That is, should we now as Christians be praying the some imprecations, especially in light of Romans 12.

    The other major Pauline theme which is helpful here is that of the weaker brother. From my perspective, those who are scandalized by “bad words” are the weaker brothers and sisters. And we should not be surprised that such are on the internet reading blogs and forums. Therefore I try to refrain from course language online.

  2. I am quite busy right now, but to indicate a trajectory to both of you two, Anne and Dan, I have been thinking that “Get behind me Satan” is an important example as to naming crap as crap and which is credited to Jesus. Now, was Peter put out forever? Certainly not, but it was more than a simple rebuke — Peter was named for his actions as that which contravenes God’s plan. I think this should be taken into account when thinking of curse and rebuke.

  3. “Theologically, it [the F-word] is profane only if sex is sacred.”

    Not to belabor the point too much, but while sex may not be sacred, people made in God’s image are, and to say that someone should “F” someone or someone should be “F’d” often seems to imply force or violent sex, which is dehumanizing. Kind of sounds like it could be understood as a method of torture, ironically. Ask someone who has been raped if they think the use of the “F” word has no connection to violent force of torture. Actually, ask most women, regardless of their past, what they think of the word.

    I don’t believe that David really intends to “rape Hannity” or wishes the actual act on him, but maybe a bit more prduence is in order.

  4. One other thought: Jesus did tell us that we are to bless our enemies who curse us. Perhaps that could mean to shoot back another curse, but that seems a bit counterintuitive to me. Thoughts?

  5. Derek, I certainly do not deny that there exists a tension. What is key for my understanding on this specific occasion is two things. First, peace cannot happen without justice — to put unbalanced relationships aright — and that requires a deep honesty about the disparity at hand. Thus Halden is right, we’ve got to call bullshit bullshit. What Hannity did was bullshit on multiple levels, and on even more levels if he actually is Catholic. I say this not because I flippantly use language, actually it is just the opposite: language is immensely important, and it, like theology is at the service of the oppressed, while the “powerful” are questioned.

    Second, within the grand Christian yes to creation, there is a strong, emphatic no to evil and sin. So even if the word seems ugly, we can’t simply shy from it because we would be shying away not only from honesty, and therefore propagate a trivialized notion of reconciliation, but one would also not act responsibly in putting forth the voice of the oppressed. This rebuke is therefore within the tradition of prophetic denunciation (although I would make no claims to being a prophet, merely that Christianity has a tradition and language towards speaking to circumstances like this).

    In theory, such a strong no causes pause and reconsideration, especially if accompanied with a strong argument. I do not mean to keep tooting my own horn, but notice that a masters thesis on torture was linked to on the blog, this is a very important part of the curse/rebuke.

    As shown above, there is a great deal going on and to complicate it even more, is Hannity an “enemy”? I don’t think any of this discussion is clear cut, especially other statements about the enemy (i.e. turning the other cheek) could be easily interpreted as a nonviolent way of challenging authority, rather than submissiveness, by acting like a mirror to show the oppressor who they really are.

  6. Anne C. says:

    At the very least, David, the words you used muddle the point you desire to make by miring us in a discussion of exactly what you desire to happen to Hannity when you say, “F you.”

    Also, just because he is Catholic and is going against Church teaching does not license the use of the phrase.

    Prophetic denunciation not only denounces, but also names to the person their error in the very denouncement. Thus, Jesus can say to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” and is not only denouncing what Peter has said, but also pointing out that Peter (even if he doesn’t mean it) is providing a temptation from Satan. I’m not sure sure “F you” does this.

    • Well, first, I’m not trying to justify what I did in relation to what Hannity said. The question about his Catholicism is limited the heretical charge.

      Second, again, there is a 50 page paper attached to this.

  7. Anne C. says:

    So call Hannity a heretic. And call torture wrong, and analyze it, as you did in your MA thesis. I am still trying to understand because you still have no explained: how does that make “F you” anything but an angered curse?

    • It certainly is an angered curse. But it is a specific type of angered curse: it is the strong no within the grand yes. As such, this angered curse is not a flippant thing; rather, it is fairly calculated.

      I’ll put it this way. From what I’ve read of Balthasar, I see this fitting into his rubric underneath wrath, with wrath being equivalent to no. But surrounding wrath is the movement of love, the work towards reconciliation, that pushes the subject to a new mode of life by presenting the pure gift of a new way of life. Here the thesis comes in. It is an argument that undercuts torture for a Christian and provides an alternative — a Christological mode of being of interruption and thus a christological, ecclesial life both at odds with the “world” while it seeks to live in it: objecting to death while affirming and seeking the flourishing of life.

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